"Talent?"

"Yeah." She smiled. "Your talent is writing... The quiet ones always have the most to say."

Francis furrowed her eyebrows and looked at Mackenzie.

"Isn't that a famous quote or something?"

"Yeah, but I felt like it fit the mood really well." Mackenzie giggled.

"Alright, class!" Ms Porter interrupted every conversation going on in the room at the moment. "I'm going to call on each table and I want at least one person to share their poem."

Francis glared at me from across the table and I took a deep breath. Should I let her read it? Or should I do it myself? I mean, it was my poem after all. I don't want her to take any sort of credit for it.

Three tables later, Ms Porter called on my table. We all glanced at each other before I cleared my throat and opened my notebook. I don't think this class has heard me talk before - at least, not to the entire class at once.

This time I read the poem with a strong and loud voice. I made sure that my voice didn't quiver or shake. I needed to sound strong for once in my life. May Parker was right - I needed to stop doubting myself.

When I finished I looked up and saw that all eyes were on me. But this time, unlike the party, I felt good about it.

"Well," Ms Porter smiled, "that was beautiful, Ashley. Thank you for sharing."

She moved on to the next table and I looked at Francis and Mackenzie who were both beaming at me. Francis nodded her head and Mackenzie looked away slowly as she started to listen to the next volunteer.

After class, Ms Porter called me behind so she could speak with me. I gulped and held my notebook close to my chest as I walked up to her desk.

"Ashley," she began. She stacked some papers into a pile before she looked up at me and intertwined her hands together. "You have a beautiful mind."

My heart sped up due to nervousness and I smiled.

"Don't take this the wrong way, but I was taken by surprise when you volunteered to share. And then when I heard your poem, oh my gosh." She sat back in her chair and put her hand over her heart. "It was so moving and poetic!"

"Oh." I gasped. "Thanks."

"Ashley, you aren't like everyone else. And that's definitely something to be proud of."

I rocked back and forth on my feet and smiled faintly. I didn't know what to do with this praise all of a sudden.

"I see you have a B minus in this class and I'd like to help you raise it."

My eyebrows raised and my ears opened as I prepared myself for what she was about to suggest.

"If you participate more, you'll be able to get plenty of points to bump your grade up to an A."

Oh. Participation.

"I know it might be hard, but you've already taken the first step. You participated today and that's huge! All you have to do now is to just keep it up."

I nodded my head and smiled.

"Okay, Ms Porter." I cleared my throat. "I'll try my best."

"I know you will." She smiled and nodded her head. "Alright," she began to write a note, "I'll let you get to your next class now. Have a great weekend, Ashley." She took the sticky note off the pad and handed it to me. I took it and we both smiled.

"Thanks. You too." I walked out of the class and glanced down at what was written on the note. It was a pass to the next class so I wouldn't be counted tardy.

I slipped it into my jacket pocket and smiled as I walked through the empty hallway to get to algebra two.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

"Remember when you wanted to make chocolate chip cookies but we couldn't do it because I had to go to coach's birthday party?" Mason asked as I shoved a few books into my locker.

     "Yeah, I remember." I breathed. That was the day I met May Parker - how could I forget?

     "I was thinking we could do that tonight." He smiled. I shut my locker and looked up at him.

     "Mason, you know I'm grounded." I sighed. "I'm not allowed anywhere but school and my house."

     "I know, I know." He groaned and shook his head. "Can't you just tell your mom that you have to study with somebody or something? Wouldn't she believe that?"

"Mason." I sighed and leaned my head against the locker as I cradled my jacket in my hands. "She's a lawyer. She knows when I'm lying."

"Come on, babe." He pouted his bottom lip. "It's Friday night and I want to be with my girlfriend."

I sighed and looked over his shoulder for a new perspective, only to see Julia holding hands with Chad and talking to Mackenzie. My face flushed and I looked back at Mason.

"Fine." I whispered.

"Yeah?" His whole face lit up and I smirked at him. I haven't had a lot of 'Mason time' in a while and I knew he was missing me. "Oh, thank God." He wrapped his arm around me and kissed my temple as we walked down the hall together.

I was ready to ignore Julia and pretend to be strong, but Mackenzie stopped me right as I walked past Julia's locker.

"Hey, Ashley!" She gasped and looked up at the boy beside me, "you're dating Mason Baylor?"

I awkwardly stopped in my tracks and smiled at her. Julia and Chad were staring at me - I could see them out of the corner of my eye. I tried to ignore them the best I could as I nodded my head.

"Wow, you're lucky." She smiled. I laughed lightly as I looked up at Mason to see that he was smiling. He looked down at me and leaned in to kiss the top of my head.

Oh, Mason. Why do you always have to make a show?

"Aw, that's cute." She smiled. "Hey, we should totally get coffee sometime or something." Mackenzie suggested. My eyes widened and I must've looked like I got hit by a bus or something.

"Oh, yeah." I smiled and glanced over at Julia. "I'd love to."

Julia smiled at me and I couldn't tell if it was real or fake but I accepted it anyway. I took a deep breath and smiled back.

"Okay, see you later." I said to Mackenzie (and maybe even to Julia as well) and continued to walk down the hall with Mason.

"So..." Mason smiled, "are we talking Netflix and chill?"

I rolled my eyes and smacked him in the arm as I laughed.

     "You wish."

     I glanced back over my shoulder and saw that Julia was looking straight at me. She didn't even turn away to break our glance; we just kept staring. I smiled faintly and turned back around as Mason and I walked out the doors of the high school.

     I couldn't help but wonder why Julia keeps looking at me all of a sudden and why I don't seem to get as many butterflies as before.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

I think this is the shortest chapter I've ever written, but I didn't know how to keep it going without adding on an entire different part (and I didn't want it to drag on).

To make up for this short chapter, I will be posting Chapter Eleven this Friday (again)! Hopefully that will keep you guys on your toes.

Also, I apologizing for uploading this so late today! I thought I could do it at school but I just got so busy. Anyway, sorry for the late/early update!

The picture above is Ashley James <3 (I'll probably edit her name on it later, but for now, I'd just like to update this for you guys!)

See you on Friday!

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